Why Not Just Use …

by: Scott Nesbitt | 18 October 2022

Those are four words that regularly show up in the feedback I get about this site and about tools that I look at in this space. They’re four words that are invariably followed by name of the favourite tool for working with plain text of the person contacting me — usually something like Emacs and org-mode, Obsidian, Logseq, or vim.

Those folks don’t seem to realize that those applications, while a good fit for them, might not be as good a fit for someone else. Especially someone whose needs are simple or someone who doesn’t want or need to scale the learning curve of those applications.

Consider the combination of Emacs and org-mode. More than once, I’ve been accused of hating or fearing both. Far from either. Believe it or not, I actually do like them. Probably more than most techie tools I’ve tried over the years. For a space of about 27 months, I used Emacs and org-mode exclusively to take notes, to outline my writing, to manage my task lists, to keep a journal. And I used Emacs for much longer to do everyday text editing and writing, as well.

I don’t pretend to be an expert Emacs or org-mode user, but I’m definitely not unfamiliar with them. The combination of the two enabled me to do what I needed to do. In the end, though, I found both were just a bit too much for what I need to do. And then there were Emacs’ various quirks, both small and not-so-small. All of that convinced me to embrace something simpler, something better suited to me and to what I do.

As I pointed out in a previous article, not everyone’s needs are same when it comes to tools for working with plain text. Some people require the complexity of Obsidian or of an advanced text editor or of a convoluted toolchain. For others, using a text editor like Gedit or Notepad, bolstered maybe by some other simple application, fits their needs perfectly.

In the future, before you blurt out Why not just use … consider who you're saying that to. Take a moment to think about how their use cases, and their use of plain text in general, might differ from yours. You might discover that there’s a good reason someone opts for tools and applications other than your go-to solution.